I remember the day I dropped my oldest child off for his first day of kindergarten. Once the teacher smiled politely, waved goodbye and shut the door, I rounded the corner and sobbed. My baby boy was growing up too fast.
Fast forward to his college years. It was deja vu all over again when my husband and I hugged him goodbye and drove away from the dormitory that was to be his new home. Once we were out of view, I curled up in the fetal position on the passenger side of the car and cried during the entire trip back home.
I survived all those years my son was gone, and went through it again with my oldest daughter when she picked a school several hours from home. But I was prepared, and by the time she left for college, I was a seasoned veteran of parenting long-distance. Fortunately, my two younger children chose to stay local, which spared me another round of emotional goodbyes from the steps of a college dorm.
Now that I have all four of my offspring living nearby, I've noticed not only a stronger bond between us, but a few subtle idiosyncrasies that no one warned me about once my baby chicks grew up and flew the coop. I was surprised to learn the following about my adult children:
* My kids still believe dear old Mom and Dad have only had sex four times in their life -- once for each kid. There's something to be said about living in a state of denial.
* They expect us to babysit their pets whenever they go out of town. Good thing none of them own a six foot python, otherwise we'd have a problem.
* Even though they have washing machines down the hall in their apartment buildings, they prefer to haul an industrial size bag of dirty clothes to our house, especially if they're fresh out of quarters.
*They're convinced that we have gold bars buried in the backyard and that we cash them out from time to time to afford our monthly beer budget. The rest, they are certain, will be liquidated to fund our future retirement home on wheels.
* The first thing they do when they walk in our door is head straight for the refrigerator. We might as well hang a neon sign above it that says, FREE FOOD. Same goes for our supply of toilet paper and paper towels.
*They never keep a stash of envelopes or stamps, and will pass by the post office next to their home in favor of driving the extra five miles to our house to borrow one of each.
*Even though they know how to wash and wax a car, they still bribe their father to clean their vehicles with the promise of a bottle of Jameson whiskey.
*On the rare occasions that we get an invite to their apartments for dinner, we have yet to eat a meal off of anything other than paper plates. At least they use real silverware. Have you ever tried cutting a steak with a plastic knife and fork?
The best part of having adult children is the friendship we share. The door is always open and the fridge is well stocked for their impromptu visits.
Little do they know that we really ARE saving up for that retirement on wheels... and the day we leave, I'm taking all the toilet paper and paper towels with me.
Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humor book, "Who Stole My Spandex?" and the voice behind the blog, Menopausal Mother.